Updated: Dec 4, 2020
In the previous post we talked about the difference between perimenopause and menopause, as well as the timeline and symptoms of both.
In this second post of the series, I give a description of the symptoms, giving you a better idea of what to expect. I tried to keep the descriptions short. I want this to be an easy to read guide where you can pinpoint what your are looking for and find the answers you need.
Common Symptoms explained.
Heavy or lighter period
Experiencing lighter periods that become further apart. Or experiencing heavier periods that become closer together, getting heavier the closer you are to the menopausal stage.
“Tropical Moments”. Like a wave of heat spreading through your body, chest, neck and face. Your skin gets red or blotchy and you may break out in a sweat. Described as a rush of heat. For me it’s more like a fever than a rush of heat. You may even feel dizzy, or light-headed, and/or have heart palpitations. Can last from 30 seconds to many, many minutes. Usually followed by a cold chill. (close the window and get back under the covers… sigh)
Can be triggered by alcohol (wine especially), caffeine and certain foods. (I can vouch for that). Hot flashes can be experienced during perimenopause, and mostly during menopause. These can last from 4 to 10 yrs after menopause BUT for most, will decrease in frequency and severity.
Like a hot flash but happens at night. You’re awakened a the burst of heat going through your body, then you start to sweat, and then the sheets stick to your body. Fun! (and here begins the ritual of throwing off the sheets, opening a window… getting cold when the body returns to normal… closing the window and covering up again… and repeat).
Headaches / Migraines
Having migraines when you never used to. Or having an increase in the frequency and severity of migraines.
A woman may experience depression, anxiety and panic attacks.
Worst PMS symptoms
Your premenstrual syndrome (PMS) could get worse. Symptoms like bloating, mood swings, breast tenderness, food cravings and feeling tired. Due to the fluctuating levels of the progesterone hormone.
Not all women experience them. Hard on you as well as on the family. Mood swings at this stage in your life can be more common if you have had PMS in the past.
Insomnia / Fatigue
The night sweats will of course disrupt your sleep. Once perimenopausal, many women find their sleep pattern changes. Maybe having difficulty falling asleep at night. Some waking up often during the night and having trouble going back to sleep. If you are one who’s sleep is unaffected, you may still wake up tired even after a normal night’s sleep.
Loss of sex drive
Since your hormone levels drop, you may see a change in your sex drive. It may lessen or disappear altogether.
Feel like you are forgetting words, important dates, doctor appointments, and what you were just about to say? Feel like your brain isn’t working so well? Many women feel the same way.
Loss of concentration
I hear this one often and have also experienced it. Many of us find we aren’t able to concentrate as well as we used to.
Muscle Aches / Joint pains
Estrogen levels affect the hydration of your joints, ligaments and tendons. A drop in these levels changes the level of hydration in the tissues and lubrication of the joints. Can cause pulling on your muscles (affecting posture) and pressure on the joints causing the aches and pains.
Hair and skin changes
Estrogen is important for many things. When the hormone levels drop, your skin loses elasticity, causing wrinkling. You may also experience dry skin, acne, thinning skin and increased facial hair.
Estrogen also plays a role in hair growth. You may notice that your hair is becoming thinner and losing some of its shine.
Vaginal dryness (this deserves a longer description)
Lack of estrogen tends to cause vaginal atrophy which is thinning, drying and inflammation of the vaginal walls. These changes can take months to years. Your vagina may shrink a little and expand less easily as before making sexual intercourse painful. Many even find having a cervical smear becomes more painful or difficult. Your vulva may become thin, dry and itchy. Maybe even becoming red and sore.
This can affect a woman emotionally. It can be a scary experience when you don’t understand what is happening or why.
You may find you have a change in vaginal discharge. Many women find it to become more watery, discoloured and slightly smelly. They may experience irritation and a burning feeling, like a yeast infection. This is usually nothing serious and simply due to the hormonal change.
The changes in your estrogen level can lead to thinning and weakening of the urethra (tube that empties urine from your bladder). The pelvic floor, the group of muscles that supports both your urethra and bladder, weakens. It becomes harder to control your bladder. Maybe peeing a little when sneezing or coughing. Feeling a sense of urgency to get to the bathroom … and maybe not make it in time. Sometimes called an “irritable” or “overactive” bladder.
You are not alone.
As you can see, this post is quite long. I really tried to keep the descriptions short but at times felt I couldn’t. I don’t want this post to feel impersonal, cold. Yet I wanted it to be easy to read and simple to get to the answer you are looking for.
I would love to hear how this experience is for you. Sharing helps us feel like we are not alone. It helps us understand what is going on and that it is a natural stage in a woman’s life. There are times, before doing this research, when I thought I was “loosing it”. Now I understand and know that I am not alone. Others are living the same experiences.
Let’s socialize. Comment below, email me, instagram message me, facebook message me… whatever works for you.
Yours in health, happiness, and success,